But a visit to this fascinating region is so much more than just battlefields. There are
opportunities for adventure, from white water rafting and mountain biking, to less strenuous activities like game viewing or a round of golf – the beautiful 18-hole golf course at Vulintaba Country Estate in Newcastle is in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. A number of towns in the region have nature on their doorsteps… Vryheid has the Vryheid Hill Nature Reserve, which is home to a number of endemic bird species, including the blue cane, ground woodpecker and olive bush-shrike – in addition to great birding and incredible scenery, the Reserve offers a one-day hiking trail that passes several gun points dating back to the Anglo-Boer War. And Utrecht, a ‘town within a game park’, nestling in a corner of the Balele mountains offering outdoor activities such as hiking, horse trails and trout fishing – both on dams and on the Bivane River.
Don’t miss the chance of ‘ticking’ one of the nearly 400 species of bird that have been identified along the Amajuba Birding Meander and is particularly rewarding for species where ‘grassveld meets the berg’. Significant birdwatching destinations within the region include: Seekoeivlei at Memel, a Ramsar site; the Wakkerstroom district; Moorfield and the Vangervlei (an IBA and Natural Heritage site); Bushveld habitats around Utrecht and Rorke’s Drift; high-altitude habitats through Normandien, Muller’s and Botha’s passes; the Newcastle Sewerage works and the Chelmsford Dam. Some of the special birds of the area include the ground woodpecker, blue korhaan, Botha’s and Rudd’s lark, all three cranes, buff-streaked chat, mountain chat, bush blackcap, yellow-breasted pipit, pale-crowned cisticola, the black egret, all five of the harriers, both sparrow-hawks, and most of the kestrels.
This region is fortunate to be able to offer a Big Five experience that doesn’t require malaria medication at the Nambiti Game Reserve near Ladysmith. With its varied0biodiversity – from rolling grasslands and wetlands to riverine bush and thornveld, and 45 species of game, including cheetah, giraffe, hippo, hyena, impala, eland and zebra in addition to the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo of the Big Five it offers thrilling game viewing. Keen birders will enjoy the challenge of ticking Nambiti’s specials: lappet-faced vulture, Amur falcon, banded martin, red-backed shrike and the African quail finch. In addition to this, the Reserve’s luxurious lodges are ideal for exploring the nearby Anglo-Boer War memorial sites, with gravesites of soldiers that had been killed in the Battle of Elandslaagte in October 1899 on the reserve itself.
what to do in the battlefields
did you know
Between November and April every year, more than 20 000 Amur falcons take up residence in a line of pine trees that run for about 400m along Allen Street, just a two-minute drive from the Newcastle CBD. It is believed that they breed in south-eastern Siberia, northern China and northern Mongolia before making their 15,000-km migration across India, the Arabian Sea to South Africa.